Pro-Palestinian protesters on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington
Pro-Palestinian protesters on the University of Vermont campus in BurlingtonAndrew Lapin/Jewish Telegraphic Agency

College campuses failed miserably at protecting Jewish students during the previous school year, and with Anti-Semitism soaring it will be a major issue next month when school returns in the United States. Nary a university president has visited Israel this summer to learn about the conflict firsthand nor have nearly any of these schools communicated a plan of any sort.

The reality is most Jewish communities on campus are not safe today and cannot rely upon established institutions to protect them as we have seen in the streets of NYC and LA recently. The largest on-campus organization Hillel is largely woefully unequipped, unprepared and unwilling to take decisive action to protect the community. That will not change.

Simply, American Jews need to take steps to protect themselves and take decisive action.

Noone is coming to save us and Jews must not accept being treated as second-class citizens. Jewish students in the U.S. should remember Israelis their age are fighting in the Israel Defense Forces and protecting not just Israel but Jews worldwide. Its time to stand up.

Some strategies to foster a safer environment for Jewish students:

  1. Do Not Permit Zionist Free Zones

At universities where encampments are established, the community must ensure there are no Jewish Zionist free zones on campus. Demand entrance everywhere, forcefully and loudly. Do not accept being denied. Why wouldn’t Zionists be permitted anywhere on the school quad? Says who.

Protestors, or the police won’t permit Zionists onto certain areas on campus? Really? Jews must remember the power of being Maccabees. Do not be afraid and do not back down. Unacceptable.

Use the power of media and use the power of attorneys. Zionist Jews – and Americans of all persuasions – must immediately stand up loudly and proudly and enter the center of the encampment. Challenge forcefully anyone who attempts to determine who can enter certain areas. Last I checked in the US, Zionists can go anywhere.

Make it clear which side is pro-America, pro-West, Pro-Capitalism and which one isn’t. When the other side uses their inevitable violent language “From the River to the Sea” and “Free Palestine”, calls for murder of the Jewish people undoubtedly strong tough proud Jews must stand clearly – among them – and make our voices heard.

There must not be any Jewish Zionist free zones on campus. From Day One of school, any attempt for an “Encampment” on campus must be challenged by the university – and by the community and the students themselves. No matter who likes it this must not be permitted.

Jews must stand up loudly and proudly.

  1. Organize and Educate

While Universities will undoubtedly reaffirm their commitment to protecting Jewish students through talk, the reality is that action is unlikely to follow at many schools.

Have you organized in your community strong groups of people to stand up for this hate? What is the plan after sending 900 letters and mass emails and complaining and not getting a reply? Do you have a public relations campaign organized? Speaker series? More? Louder?

Anti-Semitism is here. Whats your plan? Do you have a plan b?

  1. Security & Self Defense
  • Self-Defense: Jewish communities must be taking part in self-defense training. American Jews need to learn how to protect themselves and all should consider carrying legal weapons. Organizations like Magen Am on the West Coast are doing important work to ensure the community is being trained and able to guard synagogues and community events. That is important – as is personal training. Jewish history – and most recently October 7th – informs our community what to expect.
  • Security Protocols: Demand enhanced campus security measures, including surveillance, patrols, and emergency response protocols to swiftly address any threats or incidents. Jewish institutions on campuses must be provided extra protection. The Jewish community must know they cannot rely solely upon outsiders and must stand up and lead in a manner fitting the situation we today find ourselves in.
  1. Community
  • Education: Have stronger programs on campus to educate the community about the reality in Israel. Bring families of hostages, IDF soldiers, Zionism experts and the like to strengthen the community.
  • Synagogues: Chabad on Campus is a wonderful strong Jewish resource for students to gain understanding through cultural events, religious celebrations, and awareness campaigns.
  • Student Organizations: Support Jewish student organizations to foster community, provide resources, and organize events that celebrate Jewish heritage and educate the broader campus community.

Counseling and Support Services:

  • Cultural Competency: Ensure counseling and support services are culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of Jewish students, providing a safe space for discussing concerns related to identity and discrimination.
  • Reporting Mechanisms: Establish clear reporting mechanisms for incidents of discrimination or harassment, ensuring confidentiality and prompt investigation.

And most of all, aliya and learning in Israel. Spend time in Israel. We are in dark days for American Jews, and one doesn’t know how this will end. What we do know is that Jews with trembling knees have never come out ahead. Stand up and be strong - loudly and proudly.

Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist.